A player presses the cash-out button on the gaming device on a Saturday night. Out pops a ticket and with it a coupon that says, "Joe Player, thank you for playing with us today. Because of your loyalty, we'd like to offer you a promotional coupon for $20 of play on Tuesday."

Or what if a casino, knowing tickets to a concert that night were selling slowly, could send out a message to players that they could get two tickets for x-amount of loyalty points and then print out a coupon admission ticket.

These are just two examples showing the future potential of ticket printers as direct marketing tools allowing the casino to reach out to players as they sit right in front of their favorite gaming machine.

Two printer manufacturers, FutureLogic and TransAct Technologies, have been promoting the potential of couponing to help casino marketers leverage their data warehouses and target specific offers to players.

"We've been talking to both casinos and to player tracking companies. I think if there's one buzz in the field, that's it," said Nick Micalizzi, vice president of sales and marketing for Glendale, Calif.-based FutureLogic. "People are very interested in talking about couponing, and they're asking how they can implement them at their facilities. It's basically like a direct marketing campaign right at the slot machines."

Micalizzi said FutureLogic's ProMatrix system offers a couponing solution for in-casino marketing initiatives, and the company is working with game manufacturers, regulatory agencies and casinos to develop a variety of options for implementing this technology.

As the industry moves toward server-based gaming, real-time marketing efforts on the floor will become essential tools for casinos, said Jon Berkley, senior vice president of global gaming and lottery for TransAct Technologies.

TransAct's patented Dual-Port Technology is a cutting-edge innovation that will allow casinos to unlock the advantages of these opportunities, he said. The technology is currently in place in the company's printers, including the Epic 950.

Those advanced capabilities are being used now in TransAct's Epic 630 printers in use in the UK as part of the Leisure Link amusement-with-prize facilities. In the United States, the capabilities are being tested in casino trials.

"I believe that printers will be a part of the networked future of gaming for the foreseeable future. They're not going anywhere," Berkley said. "The opportunity to do real-time promotions, and be able to touch people and to have the one thing that they walk away from the slot machine with in their hand come out of our printer [means] we're going to be there for a long time."

Forward-thinking operators, such as Harrah's Entertainment, are pushing for gaming system providers to give them more access to CRM functionality of system, Berkley said.

"You have early adopters who are now looking at the gaming floor as a network and how can we use this network to tie it all together," he said. The ticket printer is a "critical component," giving players something tangible to walk away with. "You need to tie that into the value-added, server-based package," he said.

Operators have huge silos of data surrounding how their players play, and they offer clues on how to enhance the player experience with enhanced marketing offers to the player, Berkley said.

TransAct is working with operators and systems providers to move the marketing initiatives forward.

Such initiatives, he said, will allow the casino to monetize other aspects of their operations. It is designed to use the information stored on the player-tracking database to enhance loyalty and repeat business by delivering customized eye-catching promotions targeted to each individual customer.

"The promise of it has been there for a long time. They want to see it unlocked," Berkley said.

Micalizzi noted that FutureLogic co-developed a couponing system with Catalina Marketing that is used in grocery stores today. "We bring a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience to the table."

Some of the issues that need to be addressed are how to make the coupon look different from a ticket and when and how to present a coupon as opposed to a voucher, he said.

"I think the printers are going to be around for quite some time. You're going to be able to in the short term or not to distant future really wage a marketing campaign at the slot machine. That really bodes well for ticket printer," Micalizzi said. "I'm thoroughly convinced that if people could use it today, if it were approved today, people would be using it."

Makers of ticket printers also are refining their products to make them even more efficient and valuable to casinos.

Once a server-based network becomes more commonplace, operators also will benefit from more efficient maintenance and upgradeability, Micalizzi said.

"Instead of going from machine to machine to upgrade your printer, you can do it from the server," he said.

He noted FutureLogic is continuing to look for new technology and "will bring new technology to the market."

One of TransAct's advancements to printer functionality has been its ability to use an international character set to generate tickets and coupons in many languages.

Both TransAct and FutureLogic have opened offices in Macau and have a presence in Europe.

SUBHED: New player

Another company, Nanoptix, is seeking to make inroads into the Class III arena. Jean-Louis Drapeau, director

Jean-Louis Drapeau, director of sales for the Canada-based company, said he sees room for improvement in the basic printer operational efficiency.

"We believe that we're a real option out there and that the market has been looking for a real option. People are looking for basic needs to be fulfilled," he said.

"The printer has to operate longer and better than what's been out there. Right now printers take way too long for players," Drapeau said.

The reliability factor also could be improved, he said.

Every time a ticket is jammed, you have a player who is very upset. You've got to make sure it's reliable, that it doesn't jam."

Nanoptix is just beginning to move into the Class III gaming arena, but already has a footprint in Class II gaming and in some international lottery jurisdictions, such as Sweden and The Netherlands. "Our growth is directly related to the satisfaction of our customers," Drapeau said. Recently, the company achieved Nevada and GLI-approval for use of its printers in Aristocrat games, and is moving to get similar approval for two other major OEMs.

He said the company is "very engineering-focused."

"Our printers are simple but often to have a simple product you have to have very smart engineering," he said.

He said the printers are easy to fix, the parts are readily available, and Nanoptix' printer life warranty is double that of its competitors.

Nanoptix sees the power of couponing, but Drapeau noted printers need to be able to handle such capabilities and still operate in a timely fashion. "If you can do all of this fast, then you have something for the consumer."